Last Thursday, Sept. 15, I spent the day at the McCormick Place Convention Center in downtown Chicago, sight of the 31st International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS).
I had never been to the event before, and I had always heard how IMTS is way bigger than the other industrial product trade shows I’ve attended. But even with that expectation, IMTS still gave me a sense of overwhelming awe.
Covering 1.37 million square feet of exhibition space, IMTS is impossible to walk thoroughly in one day, but I tried to see as much as I could. I checked my Fitbit as I got back to my car at the end of the day, and it showed I had topped 20,000 steps and 10 total miles of walking.
Held every two years in Chicago, the event brings together more than 2,000 exhibiting companies that range from manufacturers, designers, distributors and technology service providers. IMTS had 82,411 registrants in 2010, jumping to 100,200 in 2012; 114,147 in 2014; and edged up to 115,612 this time around. I went on Thursday — the fourth day of the week-long event — and I'm glad I went then instead of earlier in the week, as I hear the floor was essentially shoulder-to-shoulder on on Monday.
Here's a look at the day-by-day registration count for IMTS 2016:
I saw more robots than I could count, a large array of 3D printers and a seemingly endless offering of different automation machines and applications.
Here's a look at some of the many sights I had while walking the show floor.
Here's Kawasaki Robotics' duAro — a dual-arm, SCARA robot released in August 2015. It was serving up ice cream cones at IMTS.
Here's Yaskawa's GP8 High Speed Handling robot, showing off its speed and mobility:
Here's ABB Robotics' YuMi — a collaborative, dual arm, small parts assembly robot solution that includes flexible hands, parts feeding systems, camera-based part location and state-of-the-art robot control.
Back at the Yaskawa booth, check out its Industrial Mobile Manupulator and Flexible 15-Axis, Dual Arm Robot:
After reading so much about Amazon's Kiva warehouse robots and Clearpath's OTTO, I had to see them for myself:
Perhaps the most interesting trend I saw was how all these different robotics offerings are aiming to enhance collaboration with human factory workers, not replace them. For at least the past 20 years there’s been the stigma that robots are ‘taking away jobs,’ but IMTS truly gave me the sense that the latest robots are industrial factory jobs easier and safer, not eliminating them.
Here's a handful of general IMTS photos I snapped while making my way from one of McCormick's four expo halls to another: